IAMC Weekly News Roundup - August 26th, 2013 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – August 26th, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

Function on communal harmony (Aug 24, 2013, Times of India)

The students and faculty members of RajarshiTandon Girls Degree Collegeorganised a cultural programme on Friday as part of communal harmony fortnight being held under the aegis of National Service Scheme (NSS) unit of the college. Faculty member Ranjana Tripathi said that folk dance and sadbhavana song competitions were held. The programme began with garlanding of the portrait of late Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi by principal Pramila Tandon.

The winners of Sadbhawna geet were Deeksha Malviya of BA-I, who stood first. Shiksha Sharma of BA-II came second and Karishma Kapoor of BA-I bagged the third position. Babita Yadav, a student of BA-III was given a consolation prize. She further said that the best performance in folk dance was by Anita Azad of BA-II. The principal paid tributes Rajiv Gandhi and said work was worship for him.

Programme officer Meena Rani Agarwal said: “We have to fight against communal forces. The volunteers of NSS should always work for the welfare of the nation, keeping the motto of unity in diversity in the forefront.”


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02 riots: Let court, not SIT, decide Gujarat government role (Aug 23, 2013, DNA India)

It is for the court to decide whether 2002 post-Godhra riots were a result of the government’s criminal lapse as part of a larger conspiracy, said Zakia Jafri’s lawyer Mihir Desai on Thursday. “Whether the Gujarat government intentionally failed to take preventive steps or not or made any administrative lapse during the riots amounts to criminal lapse or not is something which should be decided by the court and not by the SIT (Special Investigation Team),” said Desai.

He made his argument before metropolitan magistrate B J Ganatra on behalf of Jafri, who had filed a petition protesting the closure report of the SC-appointed SIT, which had given a clean chit to chief minister Narendra Modi and others in connection with the riots. Desai also argued that the SIT had failed to investigate the Gujarat government’s lapses in implementing the state government’s Police Manual and Communal Riots Scheme of 1997 to deploy the army during the riots.

He also demanded that Modi and others should be charge sheeted and the investigation handed over to another independent agency. The lawyer further stated that when an agency, such as SIT, had been assigned the investigation of the large-scale violence, it has to probe whether the government could have anticipated such a situation, and if it did, what steps it had taken to prevent it, he added.



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Narendra Modi following Hitler’s tactics to grab power: Digvijaya Singh (Aug 22, 2013, IBN)

Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh, who has been unsparing in his criticism of Narendra Modi, on Thursday compared him to Adolf Hitler saying he was following the disgraced dictator in many ways to grab power. “I feel that there are a lot of similarities between the two as Modi is trying to follow Hitler in his bid to capture power,” he told reporters. Singh said with Modi coming into the limelight, the BJP has become “tiny” in Gujarat.

In Gujarat, he said, there was no BJP only Modi and added that the situation was similar in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The Congress leader said that in Madhya Pradesh there was only Shivraj Singh Chouhan and in Chhattisgarh, there was Raman Singh and no BJP.

He said that one should not be surprised at all on what Modi can do to get power and added that his “dream” of making India Congress-free would never be realised.



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CBI to confront IB ex-officer in Ishrat case again (Aug 20, 2013, Hindustan Times)

The CBI on Tuesday claimed it has found new evidence in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case which would help to strengthen its investigation into the larger conspiracy behind the incident. It is now planning to file the supplementary charge sheet a little later in the case due to emergence of new evidence.

Sources said the agency is analysing the “circumstantial evidence” which might help in giving location of some accused persons at the time of the crime. “We intend to question former special director of the Intelligence Bureau Rajinder Kumar in the light of the new evidence,” said a senior CBI official.

Sources said they would try to file the supplementary charge sheet in the case giving details of the conspiracy behind the incident in which 19-year old Ishrat and three others Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed by Gujarat police in June, 2004.



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Yatra ban: We won’t let UP become Gujarat, says SP (Aug 22, 2013, Rediff)

The Samajwadi Party on Thursday justified the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to ban a proposed yatra by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to garner support for the construction of the RamTemple at a disputed site in Ayodhya. It said the state government will not allow an event that might raise communal tensions in Uttar Pradesh. SP spokesperson Rajendra Choudhary asserted that the 2002 Gujarat communal violence cannot be repeated in Uttar Pradesh. He said stern action will be taken against all those who conspire to raise communal tensions in the state.

“We won’t let Uttar Pradesh to become Gujarat. There is brotherhood and communal harmony here. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has made it clear that anything against the law will not be tolerated,” he said. “Be it RSS, VHP or even BJP, if they use sadhus and sants for political purposes… the people of Uttar Pradesh are well aware of their motives and conspiracies. Sadhu andsants should be peace loving and not take law in their hands. Why didn’t they take out a yatra during BJP rule? We believe in secularism,” he added.

Choudhary said Babri Masjid would not have been demolished if the Samajwadi Party was in power at that time. “When Mulayam Singh was CM they tried to demolish the Babri Masjid. But when he was not the CM, Babri Masjid was demolished. Had we been in power at that time, no one would have dared to demolish Babri Masjid,” he said. “We want communal harmony and we want development but there are some people who consider communalism as politics, they are least bothered about development. Communalism cannot grow in Samajwadi Party’s rule,” he added.

The UP government on August 20 banned the VHP from holding a religious procession to Ayodhya, as a preemptive measure against communal flare-up. According to reports, devotees from several parts of the country are expected to arrive in large numbers at Ayodhya, from August 25 to September 13, as part of VHP’s proposed yatra of seers and saints, called the ’84 Kosi Parikrama’. The VHP plans to start from Ayodhya and travel through six districts – Basti, Faizabad, Ambedkarnagar, Barabanki, Bahraich and Gonda, before returning to Ayodhya on September 13. The UP government has said the administration of all six districts have advised against allowing the yatra.



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Shiv Sena MLA, aides ransack all-woman toll booth (Aug 23, 2013, The Hindu)

Enraged over a booth staffer demanding toll, Shiv Sena MLA Anil Kadam and his supporters on Thursday allegedly ransacked the toll-booth near Pimpalgaon Baswant on Mumbai-Agra national highway in Nashik district of Maharashtra.

Video footage aired by a private news channel also purportedly showed Kadam abusing the all-female staff at the booth. Police said Kadam apparently lost his cool because the staff demanded toll from him. MLAs are exempted from toll. He was travelling in a private car at the time.

“Kadam and others were charged with non-cognisable offence under IPC Sections 504,” police said. Late last year, a Gujarat Congress MP Vitthal Radadia was caught on camera flashing a gun at a toll booth in Vadodara because he was asked for tax. In December, Haryana Congress MLA Ram Niwas Ghorela was allegedly involved in a brawl over right of way.



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BJP activist, 6 others booked on attempt to murder, rioting charges (Aug 22, 2013, IBN)

A BJP activist and six others have been booked on charges of attempt to murder and rioting in connection with a communal clash in Soram village in Muzaffarnagar district, police said on Thursday.

BJP activist Umesh Mallick, along with six others, has been booked in connection with the clash between two groups in Shahpur area on Tuesday, police said.

Police had earlier registered cases against 150 people and arrested 14 persons in this connection. The clash started after a person, Mohd Wali, was injured in an attack by some people belonging to another community.



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Around 100 arrested in Indore, curfew continues (Aug 21, 2013, Times of India)

Nearly 100 people have been arrested in connection with the violent clash between two groups in the city, police said on Wednesday. The clash occurred on Tuesday in Chandan Nagar area of the city after the recovery of a cow carcass and till now, police have arrested around 100 people in this connection, superintendent of police (west) Anil Singh Khushwaha said.

Following the violence on Tuesday, in which 50 people including 20 policemen were injured after two groups indulged in stone-throwing, curfew was clamped in the area, which was still on as a precautionary measure, he said.

No untoward incident was reported from Chandan Nagar after curfew was imposed, Khushwaha said, adding that heavy police force has been deployed in the area.



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Task force to monitor terror cases against Muslims: MHA moved (Aug 26, 2013, Economic Times)

Minority Affairs Minister K Rahman Khan’s demand for a special task force to monitor and review terror cases involving minorities has been referred to Home Ministry, the Rajya Sabha was informed today. Khan told the Upper House that the matter to set up a separate task force has been referred to Home Ministry Affairs.

“The matter has been discussed at an appropriate level and referred to MHA to set up a separate task force in the ministry to look into terror-related matters involving minorities. Ministry of Minority Affairs has no role in this regard,” he said while replying to a question by an MP about the fate of the task force proposed by him in July.

Khan’s proposal to set up the special task force had invited criticism from BJP, which said it is an attempt to appease Muslims. However, the minister justified his demand, saying many Muslims have been languishing in jails, often on trumped up charges.



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Asaram Bapu: India guru summoned over ‘sex assault’ (Aug 26, 2013, BBC)

Police in India have summoned controversial spiritual guru Asaram Bapu after a 16-year-old girl accused him of sexual assault. He has been given four days to appear for questioning, police said. Asaram Bapu has denied the charge and says he is innocent. Earlier this year, he was criticised for saying that the victim of the Delhi gang rape would have been let off had she called her attackers brothers and pleaded for mercy. His views had caused outrage among many Indians.

The 72-year-old guru – whose main ashram (religious centre) is in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat state – has millions of followers in India and he is hugely popular for his discourses on Hindu religion and religious practices. “Baseless allegations are levelled against me because I preach Indian culture during my discourses. In the last four-and-a-half years, I was accused of practising black magic and tantric practices but none of them stood the legal scrutiny,” the Press Trust of India news agency quoted him as saying.

The girl’s family say they have been followers of the controversial guru for 12 years. In their complaint to the police, the family alleged that Asaram Bapu asked the teenager to stay back after prayers last week and assaulted her while her mother waited outside.



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Things set to deteriorate in divided Andhra Pradesh (Aug 23, 2013, Rediff)

The state of Andhra Pradesh is already going through a messy phase and things are all set to deteriorate in the coming days. Anti-bifurcation protests have paralysed normalcy in Seema-Andhra regions for the past few weeks, but things will drift further down as pro-Telangana groups will commence counter-protests from Monday. The fear among the people of Telangana is that the Union government may try and delay the formation of the separate state looking at the intensity of the protests in the Seema-Andhra regions. The political and students joint action committees in Telangana have decided to commence their agitation from Monday.

They are also mulling a “million march” in which one million people are expected to take part. This strike would also have the support of the Telangana employees’ union. Meanwhile protests continue unabated in the Seema-Andhra regions. In fact they are planning on intensifying the protests However, all eyes are on the Parliament and the each one is waiting to find out if any of the Seema-Andhra MPs would be suspended by the Congress for disrupting proceedings. The fall out of such a suspension would be directly on the nine ministers from the Seema-Andhra region. They would be under immense pressure to resign in order to save their vote bank as there is a likelihood of the suspended MPs becoming heroes.

Politically too there is a lot at play in the Seema-Andhra region today. The Congress no doubt is worried about the growing clout of Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress Party uin the region. Moreover Jagan’s mother Vijayamma has put out successful shows in the past couple of days seeking a united Andhra Pradesh. All the employees’ union are leaning towards the YSR Congress which has announced its unconditional support to any strike seeking the unification of the state. The Congress through Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Akabaruddin Owaisi made one more attempt to pacify Jagan to join hands with his former party. He has held at least three meetings with Jagan and the last one was a few days back.

However, Owaisi has been turned down by Jagan on all three occasions. Jagan feels that he can win on his own and hence allying with the Congress is of no use to him. Meanwhile some of the Congress leaders from Seema-Andhra have been trying to convince the party high command about launching a dummy party. The idea is to come out of the Congress and launch a party which will protest against the bifurcation of the state. The leaders think this would help them electorally and after the elections they would tie up with the Congress. The proposed move was also being considered by Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy; however, the high command denied the permission. The CM later rubbished the news, terming it as “speculative”.



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Opinions and Editorials

The Ruler of Hindu Hearts? – By Krishan Partap Singh (Aug 26, 2013, New York Times)

As India heads into an election year, the Congress Party-led government is on its last legs. After two terms in power, it is enmeshed in corruption scandals and an unshakeable perception of poor governance. Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s main opposition party, which should be taking advantage of the government’s dire condition, is faltering. Following successive election defeats, and a political environment primed for a change, the B.J.P. faces a choice: move toward the political center or cling to ideological purity and lurch rightward in an attempt at a divide and conquer strategy. All signs point to a rightward shift. The B.J.P.’s embrace of the far right is embodied by the rise of Gujarat state’s chief minister, Narendra Modi, a controversial figure who represents an uncompromising strand of his party’s Hindu-nationalist ideology. Should the B.J.P. choose Modi as its standard-bearer for the general election – a real possibility given his increasing popularity – Modi’s polarizing style would likely scare away prospective coalition partners and lead to an unstable government dominated by small, regional parties.

Most troubling, Modi’s Hindu-nationalism is likely to lead to a deepening of sectarian divisions, India being home to the world’s second-largest Muslim population. His questionable conduct during the 2002 riots in Gujarat that left more than 1,000 people dead, mostly Muslims, has shadowed his ascent to the national stage. He is accused at the very least of doing nothing while Gujarat burned, and at worst of having helped to orchestrate the violence. In a recent interview with Reuters, Modi did not help his cause when asked about the riots. He answered by saying his feelings of pain for the tragedy were similar to how he’d feel if a puppy had been run over by a car in which he was merely a passenger. As a consequence of the riots, Modi suffers the indignity of a U.S. visa ban, in effect since 2005, and he remains a target of human rights groups the world over. He also faces the specter of investigations into the extrajudicial killings of suspected terrorists by the police in Gujarat, which could implicate his closest aides, and perhaps even Modi himself, in the coming weeks.

For all his talents he has few allies outside his party, a handicap in an era of coalition governments. The B.J.P. should now be welcoming more partners into its fold. Instead, in June it lost its largest ally, Janata Dal (United), in the large swing state of Bihar, a breakup catalyzed by Modi’s ascension. Still, most B.J.P. members – and increasing numbers of voters – seem convinced that Modi, with his larger-than-life persona and unquestioned religious pedigree, is their long awaited Hindu Hriday Samrat – the ruler of Hindu hearts. The son of a tea-stall owner, Modi, 62, has spent most of his life in politics, joining the right-wing Hindu-nationalist Sangh Parivar organization early on and rising through its ranks by displaying impressive organizing abilities. He moved to the B.J.P. in 1987 and was appointed chief minister of Gujarat as a midterm replacement in 2001 without ever having fought an election.

In the decade since, Modi has won three straight state elections and engineered remarkable economic growth for his province – some even go as far as describing it as the Guangdong of India. His focus on pro-investment policies, cutting red tape, extensive infrastructure development, while using his personal charm to woo foreign and domestic investment, has been a marked contrast to most other state governments. When Tata Motors fell out with the West Bengal government in 2008 over plans to set up a production plant for its “People’s Car,” the Nano, Modi wasted no time in text messaging Ratan Tata welcoming him to Gujarat with open arms. Soon enough, the first Nano was rolled out in his state. Other corporations say they’ve found Gujarat an oasis for investment.



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Political parties take up poll position on Ram temple issue – By Sunita Aron (Aug 21, 2013, Hindustan Times)

Has Ayodhya lost its relevance as India’s communal fault line? Or is a stage being set again in the temple town in eastern Uttar Pradesh, 136 km from Lucknow, for another round of bitter tussle before the 2014 general elections? The Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri mosque controversy – especially after the demolition of the mosque, built by Mughal emperor Babar in 1528, on December 6, 1992 (see graphics) – began to fizzle out as India moved on. On December 6, 2012 – precisely two decades after the demolition – the town wore a deserted look, despite beefed-up security, sealed-off roads and increased police pickets. The leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad – an RSS-led Sangh Parivar offshoot, which led the demolition – and their kar sevaks (volunteers) were nowhere to be seen.

The shrill war cry of ‘Mandir yahin banayenge (We’ll build the Ram Temple at the disputed site)’ mellowed down following the Supreme Court stay on the Allahabad High Court order dividing the disputed site into three sections in May 2011. The only sign of the temple movement left in the town was huge stacks of carved pillars meant for building the temple. The last mass mobilisation programme by the VHP was the 2002 shila pujan, followed by the distribution of Ram and Sita idols in villages. But things – or, at least, the perception – are changing fast. After Gujarat CM Narendra Modi took over as the BJP’s poll campaign chief, his confidant Amit Shah paid several visits to Ayodhya, giving rise to the speculation that the Parivar would again play the Hindutva card.

Interestingly, the ruling Samajwadi Party, a sworn enemy of the Parivar, finds the return of the temple ghost quite convenient. For, it may help the party strengthen its hold on the minority vote bank. According to a political observer, although the VHP had planned to nettle the Muslims through their proposed Parikrama – walking around Ayodhya – they were actually worked up by retired justice Palok Basu’s move to find an amicable solution to the issue.

As he succeeded in mobilising about 10,000 signatures, the VHP rushed to SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and urged him to begin talks on the temple tangle. But Yadav decided to ban the Parikrama instead – and made the temple issue relevant again. Earlier, Swamy Chinmayanand, former minister of state for internal affairs in the Vajpayee government and a temple protagonist, lost his cool when the media wanted to know why the BJP and its associate parties remembered Ayodhya only before the elections. Soon after, the delegation met Yadav and his CM son Akhilesh.

As the VHP decided to begin a new controversy by holding the Parikrama, the reactions followed the expected lines. The state government banned it, the VHP dared it and the SP’s minority leader Mohammad Azam Khan criticised Mulayam for meeting the Parivar. A day after the Parikrama ban came the state cabinet’s decision to earmark 20% of the funds spent on 85 public welfare schemes run by 30 departments for minorities. The party will now claim to have implemented the recommendations of the Sachar committee – set in 2005 to look into the plight of the minorities – even though the UPA 2 sat over it. Game 2014 has begun.



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Conspiracy behind communal riots of Nawada – By Faisal Sultan (Aug 22, 2013, twocircles.net)

The incidents of communal violence in Nawada (Bihar), and other places, appears to be part of larger conspiracy to destablise the Nitish Government. The leaders of Bihar -JUDs should be careful about it. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is a worried man these days. He can no longer claim a communal violence-free state as one of the achievements of his nearly eight-year rule. Citing such examples, an impression would be created that in the event of election- 2014, Communal tension will increase. Local administration and police forces have utterly failed to control such events. We condemned the damage caused to deprived minority business.

Minority demanded from the government to undertake the compensation work to the loss and pay compensation to the affected Muslims . We also demanded repairing work for the Muslim shops and compensation to the affected Muslims on urgent basis. Further the government should take precautionary arrangements in the town during forcoming festival to avoid such incidents in future. The victims – mainly Muslims – are still struggling, socially and financially to bring the culprit’s under the justice and waiting for the neutral official commissions of inquiry set up on urgent basis.

The threat and fear of communal incidents is on the rise among the people, particularly in the minority community. The Nitish Kumar government has to be alert and must act tough against troublemakers and those conspiring to provoke communal riots. I personally appreciate higher officials, administration and top police officers including RAF, who later used full force to control the situation. Consequently the situation improved within a week.

The FIR registered requires further investigations into the case by an independent agency other than the appointed Special Investigation Team and filing of charge sheet against culprits. Officials suspect that two local leaders, involved in illegal stone quarrying in the district, were inciting “communal hatred” as part of business rivalry, a police officer said, adding that the National Security Act would be invoked for preventive detentions and swift action against troublemakers.



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The strange case of Akhlaque Ahmed Khan: Over 14 years as undertrial on charges of conspiracy to wage war – By M Reyaz (Aug 17, 2013, TwoCircles.net)

On mere charge of alleged conspiracy to ‘wage war against the government’ an accused is languishing in jail for over 14 years. The story of Akhlaque Ahmed Khan of Kolkata is one of most intriguing, for in the same month in January, 1999 he was made co accused, along with Syed Abu Nasir of Bangladesh and others in two terror cases – one in Kolkata and other in Delhi. While in October, 2006 Akhlaque was acquitted from the Delhi case, he is still languishing in Kolkata’s Presidency Jail as an under trial in connection with the Kolkata case. What is more intriguing is that he is behind bar, although in the same case the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) had granted him bail way back in April, 1999 as he had failed to furnish the security bond on time. The story of Akhlaque Ahmed Khan is one of the hundreds of Muslim youths who made headlines at the time of their arrests, allegedly for links with Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) or some terror outfits, but have gradually been forgotten, although they still languish in jail for years.

Akhlaque was arrested first in a case by the Bhawanipur Police in Kolkata (Police later discharged him from that case) on January 7, 1999, during the month of Ramzan, and since then he has been in jail, although he was discharged from this particular case too. Akhlaque Ahmed Khan was charged in two cases on charges of waging war against the government and working as conduit to terror forces, besides several other charges – one in Kolkata and other in Delhi – and acquitted from the Delhi case for want of any evidence against him. He is one of the four co-accused in a case pending in a fast-track court in Kolkata. I met Akhlaque about two weeks back, few days before Eid-ul-Fitr, in the fast track court in Kolkata. He is now 40 years old, half bald, and had not shaved for few days. A pensive and thoughtful man, he appeared calm, though not at all happy with the day’s proceeding. After the hearing, I overheard him, explaining to his lawyer that his counsel missed an opportunity to cross question the prosecution witness, whose statement was recorded that day.

Although Akhlaque was given the bail order in April 1999, along with two other co-accused who are since out on bail, he had not deposited the security bond since he was anyway an accused in another case in Delhi and was serving as under trial in Tihar Jail. Meanwhile, charge sheet was filed in the case. After his acquittal in October, 2006 in the Delhi case, as he approached the CMM to furnish the bail, he was not allowed to furnish the bail bond on the ground that the charge-sheet has been filed and hence he has lost his right to bail. His repeated petitions to the CMM, the session court and the Calcutta High Court was hence rejected and is consequently still in jail for over 14 years now. Akhlaque was a bright student, who had completed his studies first from Saifee Hall School in Kolkata and then did graduations from the Aligarh Muslim University. He later did masters from the Calcutta University and had also done courses in Adeeb-e-Mahir from Jamia Urdu, Aligarh.

Akhlaque hit the headline once again in several news papers in Kolkata when he completed MBA in distance mode in 2011 from the Presidency Jail at the age of 38. Later in his office, Azad Ahmed Khan, his youngest brother, showed me a hand drawn greeting card that Akhlaque had sent to one of his politician friends from jail, adding that he was very intelligent and creative and was good at art as well. Third in the family of six brothers and two sisters, then 26, Akhlaque was running a Travel Agency “Masoom Travels” in central Kolkata, near his house, and was about to be married in few months, when he was first arrested on January 7, 1999. It was month of Ramzan then. Since then the fate of this family, who originally hails from Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh, but are settled in Kolkata for decades, has changed for worse. Shocked and under depression, his father Nurul Huda Khan died on June 9, 1999, six months after his son was arrested. In 2009, his mother fell very sick when both her kidneys failed and later died, but even then he was not granted a parole to take part in the last rite of his mother. Azad Ahmed Khan says, “It’s been very difficult time for the family as besides social stigma we have difficulties in managing the never ending fees towards legal expenses.”

Azad has now started another small travel agency in his name, as one of his elder brothers runs the old Masoom Travel. Akhlaque has spent the most precious years of his life in jail, but is still hopeful that he will be acquitted. While talking to me in court, in presence of three police escorts, he said, “It has become important now to be acquitted from this case.” Perhaps, he is hopeful, the acquittal will restore the family dignity. While talking animatedly about his case, he added, one can not deny the fact that there is certain kind of biasness. Advocate Feroz Ghazi, general secretary of South Asian Minorities Lawyer Association (SAMLA), who was Akhlaque’s counsel in the Delhi case, says, “This is a classic case, where no explosion occurred and not a drop of blood was shed, and on mere charges of conspiracy, a person is made to to spend the precious youthful years of his life in jail as under trial.” He added that Akhlaque was acquitted in the Delhi case on the similar charges of conspiracy to wage war against government, as the court was unable to find any acceptable evidence of any kind of conspiracy.



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Who Killed Dr Narendra Dabholkar? – By Subhash Gatade (Aug 21, 2013, Countercurrents)

Words have an uncanny ability of impinging on the receiver with clinical detachment. It is up to the receiver to unpack them or try to derive meaning out of them. It is still difficult to get over the sense of grief and shock one experienced when one received the news of the assasination of renowned rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar on the streets of Pune on Tuesday 20 th August. For Punekars – residents of Pune – Omkareshwar temple on the banks of rivers Mula-Mutha happened to be the place where the dead are taken for last rites. It was a strange coincidence that Dr Dabholkar, was on his morning walk near Omkareshwar bridge when assailants riding on a motorcycle fired at him from close range, two of which hit him in the back of his head and he immediately fell on the ground. He was rushed to Sasoon hospital where doctors declared him dead. Police found a photograph and a cheque in the name of the Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (ANS- Committee for the Eradication of Superstition) from his wallet . Perhaps after his walk he was planning to go to the office of ‘Sadhana’ – a magazine he was editing for the last eighteen years – as has been the practice whenever he used to be in Pune.

Spontaneous demonstrations have been reported from different parts of Maharashtra. And in his hometown Satara thousands came out on the streets to pay tribute to this 70 year young man who was loved and respected for his campaign against superstition and self-appointed godmen. A bandh call has been given by all political parties in Pune on Wednesday to protest the premediated murder of Dr Dabholkar. It was only last night that he was on a channel (Sahyadri) discussing the role of the caste panchayats and the way they have made life miserable for many people. The panel discussion was taking place in the backdrop of a murder of a girl by her own father one Kumharkar in Nashik- on the instruction – of the caste panchayat as she had dared to marry outside the boundaries of caste. Intervening in the discussion Dr Dabholkar was telling how they had recently organised a conference to promote intercaste marriage and have released a manifesto on the same issue. Looking at the fact that couples who go for intercaste marriage face tremendous problems at the hands of the communities they belong he was suggesting that special measures be taken by the police to protect them. Little could anyone had premonition that it is going to prove his last such panel discussion.

A multifaceted man – a medical doctor by training, writer-editor by aptitude and a campaigner by choice – he was a leading light of the rationalist movement and was engaged in fighting superstition and black magic through the organisation he led ‘Andhashradha Nirmoolan Samity’ with a network of its 200 branches spread in Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. Very few people would remember today that he was an accomplished Kabaddi player in his college days and won medals for the Indian team then. Although he started his social life by taking up medical practice he soon got attracted towards the ‘One Village, One Well’ campaign initiated by well known socialist leader Dr Baba Adhav. The work to eradicate superstition was more than two decades old. In one of his writeups on the theme entitled ‘Rationality Mission for Success in Life’ wherein he ‘aims to encourage the participants to follow four action plans to begin with and thereby bring the desired change in the society’ he had said :

The age old superstitions consisting of traditions, rituals, mind boggling procedures require money, labour and time of the individual as well as society. The modern society can’t afford to waste these valuable resources. In fact the superstitions ensure that the poor and downtrodden will remain in the same state forever and ever without giving any opportunity to come out of poor conditions. Let us take a pledge not to follow any of the superstitions and waste the resources. We will collectively oppose the authorities who spends tax payers money on the festivals and ceremonies like Kumbh Mela, temples/mosques/church maintenance, local festivals etc and allocate the funds for infrastructures like water, power, communication, transport, health-care, primary education and other welfare and development activities. Tributes have been paid to him by political leaders, social activists from all walks of life. No doubt, it was a preplanned murder, meticulously planned to the last detail. The police has formed eight teams to track down the actual murderers and one should expect that they would be able to make a breakthrough in the near future. The police said they would also scrutinise allegations that he had received threats from extremist groups such as Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. According to his family members he received threats often but refused to seek police protection. His son Hamid said, “He thought this was a struggle to end ignorance, and he did not need weapons to fight it.”

Who might have killed Dr Dabholkar ? Many possibilities exist. It is true that he did not have any personal enemies but his relentless work to fighting superstition, must have created a band of adversaries, who would have wanted to see him dead. Status quoists forces within politics also did not feel comfortable with his work. A measure of the resistance offered by all such elements to the work he and his organisation had undertaken can be had from the fact that for years together an anti-superstition bill called ‘Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic’ put forward by them is pending before the Maharashtra assembly – the only one of its kind in India. There was a strong opposition from Hindu extremists’ organisations and Warkaris to the bill, but Dabholkar was determined to get the bill passed and he stated that he was not against anybody’s faith, but was against superstition. It was barely two weeks ago that Dabholkar had criticised chief minister Prithviraj Chavan at a press conference in Pune for not tabling the draft legislation in the recently-concluded monsoon session of the state assembly. …



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For A Pound Of Flesh – By Nishita Jha (Aug 31, 2013, Tehelka)

On 16 June, Laldula Sailo woke up to some unexpected good news. He was so overwhelmed that just recollecting the moment over the phone from Mizorammade him weep with joy. God had been kind, he said; 47 years after his sister and her friend were gangraped by soldiers of the Indian Army, the Central government had given them Rs 5 lakh each as compensation. His sister did not say much when Sailo told her the good news – both friends had gone insane after being raped – neither said very much at all anymore. The Mizo National Army had been petitioning the Home Ministry for years when a horrific gangrape in Delhi and a wave of protest finally triggered this ‘divine intervention’ for Sailo’s sister and others like her. With the new Anti-rape Bill of 2013, an improved victim compensation scheme was declared paramount. State governments have begun to declare sums of money survivors of sexual violence will receive; GoaChief Minister Manohar Parrikar has offered the maximum with Rs 10 lakh, while the Jammu and Kashmir government’s decision to offer Rs 2 lakh for rape and Rs 3 lakh for rape in ‘police custody’ was met with much derision this week.

While the term ‘compensation’ and the amounts promised have been hotly debated, this is not the first time the Centre and state governments have offered large sums of money to victims of sexual assault to no avail. This money has rarely found its way to survivors and their families, and certainly not when most required. A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report from 2012 shows that the Ministry of Women and Child Development failed to spend a single rupee of the Rs 239.02 crore assigned for relief to rape survivors, between the years 2009 and 2012 (in which period at least 92,698 rapes were reported according to the National Crime Records Bureau). None of the 806 rapes reported in Delhi alone, until this June, have received adequate compensation. In three decades of activism, All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) secretary Kavita Krishnan is yet to see an instance when compensation was provided to a victim of rape. “In general, these schemes turn survivors into applicants and supplicants begging for dole. This is much worse when they belong to the lower classes or are SC/ STs. Forget the larger compensations, in almost every single case, we have organised money even for the most basic medical procedures ourselves.”

In cases that require more serious medical attention, such as those of acid attack on gangrape survivors, the money offered by way ofcompensation usually does not even begin to cover the actual cost of medical care. Pragya Singh, a 35-year-old survivor who was attacked with acid on the night of her wedding 10 years ago in Lucknow, is yet to receive any compensation from the UP government. “The only reason I survived and can still lead a happy life is because my husband could afford the bills for my surgery,” she said. Even if this money were to make its way to the right hands, offering a blanket sum – as the J&K government purports to do – raises some difficult questions. Lawyer Rebecca John, who has represented several rape survivors pro bono, says that while several women could do with financial assistance, it is crucial yet problematic to quantify their needs. “In case of a motor accident, the procedure is cut and dry: the court considers the age of the victim, how much s/he earns, how many surviving members of the family remain, how many working years the victim had ahead of them and decides on the amount of compensation.” This is important for rape too. Yet, how does one compensate for the loss of dignity? John describes it as “something the survivor has lost, is losing and will continue to lose all her life”.

One way the government could conceivably help is by offering a standard amount to the survivor when first complaint is made – what the new Anti-rape Bill describes as an ‘interim damage’ – which could cover basic medical and legal procedures. The State could then follow up with a specific amount for the survivor once the peculiarities of her case have been established by the criminal courts. In the case of gangrape and acid attack survivors, the new bill decrees that the fined amount paid by perpetrators be given to the survivor or their family. But as the case of the infamous Delhi gang rape demonstrates, this is no certain source of reparation – assailants are often unable to pay the fine levied on them, and find they must serve extra time instead. Sanjay Mishra, member of the Jharkhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (JSCPCR), has lost a lot of sleep this August. When the JSCPCR gave Rs 1.20 lakh each as compensation to four schoolgirls who were gangraped in Ranchi last month, local residents warned him that more schoolgirls would “show up every day”, alleging that they had been raped, and demanding money for false cases. One such schoolgirl, a 13-year-old rape survivor, decided to stay at home instead. When relatives contacted AIPWA to assist with her case, Krishnan found it was too late to ask for any kind of compensation. The girl, formerly a bright student, refused to go to school any longer, or to even step out of her home. Krishnan says that the family agreed with her decision not because of external stigma, or fear for her safety, but because each person in the house had abandoned hope of a future. Like Sailo’s sister, the family of three sat around staring blankly at the activists around them. Compensation, as one must remember, can be no substitute for justice.



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